Comparative Negligence in South Carolina

Under South Carolina’s comparative negligence law, you can collect damages from an accident if you are under 51% at fault.
Written by Macy Fouse
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
South Carolina is a modified comparative negligence state, meaning that you can collect damages from a car accident even if you were partly at fault for the accident as long as you weren’t more at fault than the other driver.
Car accidents are flustering, to say the least. As you deal with the aftermath, though, it’s time to assign blame. The comparative negligence laws in your state will determine the amount you can claim in damages post-accident, so it’s crucial to understand the law wherever you’re driving.
Comparative negligence can be a confusing topic, so
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What is comparative negligence?

Comparative negligence is a legal term that refers to how blame is assigned to all drivers involved in an accident. Drivers are then allowed to collect damages based on the level of damage they caused.
For instance, if you’re in a wreck where you only caused 20% of the accident, you’ll only be on the hook for paying for 20% of the damages. The other driver will be responsible for paying the other 80% based on their level of fault.
Comparative negligence can apply to both personal injury lawsuits and third-party insurance claims (i.e. when you file a claim with the other driver’s insurance). With personal injury suits, the responsibility is assigned by a judge or jury. With insurance claims, the insurance company will use comparative negligence to decide the amount of damages they pay after a collision.

Comparative negligence vs. contributory negligence

In the US, there are three kinds of comparative negligence: pure comparative negligence, modified or partial comparative negligence, and contributory negligence. Every state’s comparative negligence law fits into one of these categories.
  • Pure comparative negligence: Damages are awarded to each party according to their percentage of fault.
  • Partial/modified comparative negligence: The injured party can only collect damages if their level of fault is less than 50 or 51% (depending on the state). 
  • Contributory negligence: The injured party cannot collect damages if they were at fault at all—even 1%. 
Most states abide by the modified comparative negligence principle. 12 states recognize pure comparative negligence, and only 5 states abide by pure contributory negligence. 

What is South Carolina’s comparative negligence law? 

South Carolina is in the majority as a modified comparative negligence state. According to South Carolina law, you may recover damages only if your amount of fault is less than the negligence of the other driver and the other driver’s negligence amounts to more than 51%.
If you are 25% at fault for an accident, you can recover damages for the other 75% caused by the other driver. If you and the other driver were equally 50% at fault, you could both recover damages since both of you were less than 51% responsible. 

What happens if there are more than two responsible parties? 

If more than two parties are at fault in an accident, the fault will be split among everyone involved. You are able to file a claim with either or both of their insurance companies, and you can collect damages based on the amount of fault from each driver. 

How is fault decided in a comparative negligence case?

Fault in an accident can be assigned based on any evidence accompanying the claim in addition to information from police reports. 
It’s important to document any evidence from the scene of an accident, including:
  • The details of the cars involved, including
    make and mode
  • The time of day 
  • Weather conditions at the time of the incident
  • Witness testimonies
  • Photographs of the damage 
You’ll also want to call the police if necessary, in order to get an accurate police report. This evidence will help the insurance company allocate blame accurately. 
MORE: The dos and don'ts of filing a car accident claim report

How does car insurance work with comparative negligence? 

Since South Carolina is a modified comparative negligence state, you can file a claim with the other driver’s insurance company if you were less than 51% at fault in the accident. You can claim a percentage of the damages based on the other driver’s percentage of fault. 
For example, let’s say you were struck by a car that ran a red light, but it was getting dark and you didn’t have your lights on. When investigating the accident, the insurance company finds out that the other driver ended up
running the red light
because they were texting. Since they were distracted, the insurance assigns 75% of the blame to them and 25% to you since you were driving without your headlights on. 
Even if you were partially at fault for the accident, the other driver is more at fault in this case. You can still file a claim with the other driver’s insurance company to collect your damages. 
With South Carolina’s comparative negligence law, you’re able to collect 75% of the damages from the other driver’s insurance. If your car costs $4,000 to repair, the other driver’s insurance will only cover $3,000—so you’ll have to take care of the rest. The other driver will not be able to file a claim with your insurance company, though, since they were more than 51% at fault. 

How to find affordable car insurance

South Carolina’s comparative negligence is bound to come up short if you’re in an accident, especially if you were more at fault. Be proactive by using the
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Yes. Each company calculates your increased prices based on your demographics, driving record, amount of fault, and other factors, but you’re likely to see an increase of at least 20% if you caused an accident.
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